The displaced seanchaí : Irish heritage in the works of Oscar Wilde

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jennifer Rose Doyle-Corn (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Brent Kinser

Abstract: Critics traditionally have insisted on labeling Oscar Wilde as an English writer, largely neglecting the fact that he was born and raised in Ireland. Many factors contribute to the categorization of Wilde as English: he lived outside of Ireland much of his life, attended Oxford, was tried and imprisoned in England, and was reticent about his heritage, even dropping his Irish accent upon entering university. In current attempts to read Ireland as a postcolonial location, however, there is increased interest in Wilde as an Irishman. As a result, scholarship in the last two decades has begun to address the question of Wilde’s nationality. The son of well-known, intelligent Irish parents, Sir William and Lady Jane Francesca Wilde, Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin and lived in Ireland until his early twenties. He attended the Portora Royal School in Enniskillen and Trinity College, Dublin, prior to enrolling at Oxford. Even after moving to England, Wilde continued to publish primarily in Irish journals and to dabble in Catholicism, the historic faith of the Irish. Further, he made numerous comments throughout his life that lend themselves to a postcolonial reading of Wilde as Irishman, such as “with the coming of the English, art in Ireland came to an end . . . for art could not live and flourish under a tyrant.” This study builds upon the critical discussion surrounding Oscar Wilde’s nationality by analyzing several of his works for evidence of his Irish heritage and by understanding them in their Irish context. Rather than focusing on his most popular works, this analysis examines some of Wilde’s less frequently studied compositions, such as his poetry, critical essays, and fairy tales, as well as biographical sources such as Richard Ellmann’s landmark biography, Oscar Wilde (1988), and Wilde’s own extensive correspondence. The objective of this thesis is to demonstrate that the nationalist politics, ancient oral traditions, and Celtic folktales to which Wilde was regularly exposed as a result of his Irish heritage become important contexts for interpretation that critics have thus far largely neglected.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2010
Irish, Oscar Wilde, Seanchai
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900 -- Biography
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900 -- Criticism and interpretation
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900 -- Knowledge -- Ireland
Authors, Irish -- 19th century -- Biography

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